I am a republican, not in the American political sense – I just hold to the democratic principle that the Head of State should not be a hereditary monarch.
I am, however, fascinated by the monarchy. I regularly enjoy watching documentaries and commentaries on the royal family. I usually tune in to ‘Trooping the Colour’ and other royal and quasi-state-religious ceremonies.
I think that I’m interested in the monarch in the same sense that I am interested in history and psychology. I find it fascinating.
I think I am probably quite unusual in republican terms, being someone who has a great deal of admiration for the current Queen Elizabeth, or Elizabeth Windsor to give her her proper title. She has certainly triumphed in adversity.
Certainly our dear monarch has led a luxurious lifestyle, never lacked for material wealth, engaging company or yearned for a morsel of food. I certainly do not feel envious of her position however, there are a number of reasons aside from the clear anti-democratic ones, why we should oppose the monarchy.
The only two times, to my knowledge, that Elizabeth has spoken out in a political sense, has been to remind us of her position as head of the union, and too lecture the nation on’ ‘family values’.
It’s not surprising that a member of the established aristocracy holds such socially conservative views, indeed, probably an inevitability.
However, there are a number of very sad things about the life of Elizabeth, and royal family members in general, which I would like to explore.
As my colleague Prof Norman Bonney has highlighted, our newly born prince, George, will have no choice as to what religion he professes as ex officio head of the established Church of England, it would be unthinkable that our King should practice any other religion. George, as will all of his predecessors, will be forbidden – by law – from being a Catholic and aligning with the Church in Rome.
George will also be duty-bound to remain politically neutral, a requirement which should be – for any man worth his salt – an impossibility. He will be expected to rub shoulders with right-wing demagogues one night, and leftist fundamentalists the next, and accept this without question. The process of sceptical enquiry and self-formation which comes with it will be off-limits. If, in the future, George decides that he would like to become a cross-dressing cocktail waitress called Charlene, well… tough.
In all seriousness, how can it be in-keeping with the principle of universal human rights, that a young baby boy should be refused the rights and privileges of citizenry in a democratic society?
Aside from these glaring inconsistencies, and returning to my enthusiastic appreciation of our sacred Elizabeth, I would say this in my defence. Elizabeth was born into a secretive, and deeply divided family. In the public eye from birth (the process of her mother’s pregnancy was monitored by, among others, the Home Secretary from an adjoining room ). Her every waking moment planned for years in advance. The early death of her father, King George, of whom by all accounts she was very fond, thrust her into the attention of the global media at age 25.
Despite all this, or perhaps in spite of it, Elizabeth seems to have turned out as a fairly functional human being, who is capable of humour and love. She has been able to resist the temptations of power, and seems genuinely to care about the interests of the nation. In different circumstances, I think we would consider an individual who managed to flourish under those circumstances as very resilient.
Not so much can be said for her offspring right enough. Her son Charles, described by Christopher Hitchens as ‘a bat-eared chinless Islam-fancying slobbering dauphine with bad choice in women’. It seems that in-between peddling anti-scientific snake-oil under the guise of miracle cures, and driving his luxury wine-powered Aston Martin, Charles also manages to find the time to interfere at the very heart of UK Governance, as the so-called, ‘black spider’ letters show (so-called as a result of his very poor hand-writing). Charles only ever exercised his constitutional right to sit in the House of Lords once, before new rules made it impossible.
Elizabeth’s daughter, Anne, generally thought to be one of the more ‘down-to-earth’ royals, also has a number of toe-curling faux pas. Anne seems to keep a relatively low profile, aside from a couple of criminal convictions for speeding and being in charge of a dog which attacked someone. Fortunately for Anne, and all the other royals, these offences never seem to jeopardise any future employment opportunities.
Andrew, Elizabeth’s second son, must be responsible for quite a few sleepless nights in the royal household. When acting as ‘Trade Envoy’, a official role that he carried out (unelected and unaccountable) on behalf of UK citizens, Andrew was exposed to have been racking-up extravagant bills at the tax-payers expense in order to rub shoulders with some of the worlds to scum-bags. It also came to light that Andrew’s wife Sarah Ferguson, was shamelessly selling his services.
Lastly, Elizabeth’s fourth child, Edward. Edward seems to have kept a fairly low media profile, surfacing only to recommend the death of a child as advertising strategy, or show his panache when it comes to animal cruelty.
So, dear reader, despite my sympathies for our beloved Elizabeth, we should not be overcome with sentiments. Sadly it is the case that under current constitutional arrangement we have an unelected family of aristocrats, with power to veto legislation and influence at the heart of global politics.
I can’t help but feel the country would be a lot better without a hereditary Head of State, who is also head of the Armed Forces and the State-Religion, this is something which belongs in the Dark Ages!